Monday, May 21, 2018
Transportation

First more Tampa ramp closures, then smoother northbound I-275

TAMPA ­— Drivers traveling north on Interstate 275 through Tampa will soon find a smoother ride as part of a traffic shift intended to ease tension in the precarious construction zone.

But first, two segments along the interstate will be closed for a few days to complete existing construction.

The closed northbound I-275 exit ramp to Lois Avenue is scheduled to remain closed until July 13.

Then starting Thursday, the northbound I-275 exit to Dale Mabry Highway is also scheduled to be closed until July 13, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. And the entrance to northbound I-275 from West Shore Boulevard will be closed on July 12 and 13.

The closures are part of a lane realignment that will unveil repaved roads and fewer barrier walls, making commutes a little less hazardous. When that phase of the project is complete, drivers will see fewer bumps and turns.

But drivers should expect more congestion in the area while the ramps are closed, said John McShaffrey, FDOT spokesman.

After the project is finished, he said, the "roller coaster" effect on that section of I-275 will be alleviated.

Part of the reason for the traffic shift is to create an open space to add a fourth lane. For now, drivers can access only three lanes.

"As you come across the West Shore Boulevard, we'll jog traffic over to the right, put on the new pavement and, right before you get to the Dale Mabry exit ramp, we'll bring traffic back into the existing alignment," McShaffrey said.

Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins cautioned drivers to be extra careful, especially in the stretch of I-275 under construction.

"Be prepared, because almost every day something could change in that roadway," he said.

Gaskins said it's difficult to enforce the reduced speed limit in the I-275 construction area because the roads are so narrow that troopers don't have a shoulder on which to pull over violators. Instead, the patrol has to trust drivers to act with caution and patience in the speed zones.

"Reduce your speed," Gaskins said. "They're set for a reason. Don't try to get in there and drive aggressively."

As the expansion project nears its halfway point, construction on I-275 is on track to be completed by fall 2016 despite numerous weather delays, McShaffrey said.

Residents and businesses near the exit closures have expressed concern in the past that construction will clog up their neighborhoods.

The Dale Mabry exit ramp from southbound I-275 closed a month ago and is expected to remain closed for three more months.

Macfarlane Park Association and Neighborhood Watch president Guido Maniscalco had predicted that elderly members of the association would avoid the area entirely.

But now that construction in his neighborhood is under way, Maniscalco said the experience has been smoother than expected. He hasn't noticed increased traffic or heard any complaints.

"We thought it was going to be a disaster, " he said, "and it turned out to be the opposite."

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